TORONTO, Ontario, July 10, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Catholic parents’ group is urging Catholic trustees to refuse to comply with Ontario’s anti-bullying law that forces Gay-Straight-Alliance clubs (GSAs) into separate schools. Instead the parents are asking trustees to follow the bishops’ “Respecting Difference” strategy for tackling bullying.
“A legal opinion we obtained [from lawyer Geoff Cauchi of RZCD Law Firm] argues Catholic trustees are obliged to refuse to implement Gay-Straight Alliances in Catholic schools,” said Teresa Pierre, head of Parents As First Educators (PAFE), at a news conference in Toronto on Thursday. “Trustees have the legal right to avoid anything that would undermine the school’s religious character.”
Pierre called portions of the anti-bullying Bill 13 “unnecessary and unconstitutional” in a press release, arguing that mandatory GSAs “undermine” the Church’s teachings on the purpose of “sex and family” and forces Catholic schools to “violate” constitutional guarantees provided to Catholic taxpayers.
McGuinty’s controversial bill that forces GSAs on the province’s schools passed in June despite months of protests by parents and pro-family advocates who pointed out that the bill’s hyper-focus on homosexual-related bullying represents a threat to parental rights and religious freedom.
Lawyer Cauchi, in his legal opinion, suggested that a reasonable court should find it absurd that a Catholic board is being forced to tolerate in its schools the presence of student groups that present an anti-Catholic counter witness.
Pierre argued from this perspective that Ontario Catholic taxpayers have a “right to a Catholic school system” that “promote[s] Church teaching and Catholic values.”
“The province has no right to force the school system to violate its Catholic principles,” she said.
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But Robert Murray, director of legislative and political affairs for The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA), said that the trustees will adhere to the new law, according to the National Post.
“The content of these clubs [despite the GSA name] will still reflect Catholic teaching,” he said. “We’ve been assured of that.”
But Education minister Laurel Broten, who was recently named “co-grand marshal” of this year’s Toronto Gay Pride parade for her efforts in ramming through Bill 13, has made statements to the effect that the name GSA is not just a label, but represents a sympathetic approach to the homosexualist agenda, with the goal of becoming a catalyst for change to “traditional norms and values of society.”
Cauchi argued that OCSTA is deluded in thinking that provincial-mandated GSAs would be allowed to reflect Catholic teaching.
“This law is saying they also have to accept the GSA ideology,” he said.
Pierre agrees. “That name carries a certain set of expectations of what will be done in terms of activism in the school,” she told the Ottawa Sun.
“I’m concerned that the teachings on Church and family that are already under general erosion from today’s culture would be further questioned and attacked with these clubs,” she said.
Pierre called McGuinty a “bully” for forcing Catholic schools to host clubs which “violate the civil and religious rights of Ontario taxpayers,” especially when the “highest law of the land says Catholic schools have the right to guide their clubs according to their principles.”
“Catholic Trustees have the political, moral and legal right to implement the ‘Respecting Difference’ clubs,” she said in the press release. “These clubs are designed to help with all anti-bullying issues, and maintain the Catholic values Section 93 of the Constitution is intended to preserve.”
Section 93 of the Constitution Act of 1867 states that education laws may be made provided that “nothing in any such Law shall prejudicially affect any Right or Privilege with respect to Denominational Schools”.
Jack Fonseca of Campaign Life Catholics told LifeSiteNews that Section 93 enables either trustees of a Catholic school board or a bishop to reject any government legislation that contradicts Catholic teaching.
“The constitutional right of Catholic School Trustees is to reject legislation which adversely affects faith and morals. Bill 13 absolutely does this,” he said.
Fonseca pointed out that such a rejection by trustees would not be an “act of civil disobedience, but simply an invoking of a constitutional right.”
“It’s time for parents across Ontario to stand up and defend their rights,” Fonseca said.
Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association
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Suite 1804, 20 Eglinton Avenue West,
Toronto, ON M4R 1K8
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